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Bertin Exensor welcomes the New Zealand’s Ambassador to Sweden in Lund.

On April 16th, Bertin Exensor had the privilege to host Mr. David Taylor, New Zealand’s Ambassador to Sweden, at our Headquarters in Lund. The Bertin Exensor team was given the opportunity to present the activities in the field of Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS), as well as informing the Ambassador on the ongoing work with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the Ministry of Defence.

EPE New Zealand Limited (EPE), in collaboration with Bertin Exensor, has recently been awarded a contract by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence to provide the NZDF with the Flexnet Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) system, a scalable and modular sensing platform providing real-time situational awareness, early warning and identification of potential threats on the ground.

In connection with this new and important contract between EPE, Bertin Exensor and NZDF, Bertin Exensor had the privilege to host Mr. David Taylor, New Zealand’s Ambassador to Sweden, for a visit at the company’s headquarters in Lund. During the visit the Ambassador was briefed on the Company and the work that is currently done to support the NZDF. A demonstration of the Flexnet UGS platform was also given.

Live demonstration of the Flexnet UGS system.

Bertin Exensor VP Marcus Rosenqvist thanks the Ambassador for the visit and the great interest shown in the Company’s work with EPE and NZDF: ”It was an honour to host the Ambassador and we are grateful for the opportunity that further strengthens the relationship between our two nations.

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Invictus Games Foundation’s Sandakan Death March “In the Footsteps of the Brave”

The Invictus Games Foundation team followed in the footsteps of the heroic Australian and British Prisoners of War who were captured in World War II, and paid the ultimate sacrifice.

This group of international wounded service personnel and veterans retraced the path taken by British and Australian WWII POW’s in honour of their memory. This physically and mentally challenging expedition was all about coming together in support of their recovery and rehabilitation.  And the photos say it all!

We’re very proud of Lt Col Adam Modd GM, DSD on his selection in the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 and his subsequent selection to be part of the Invictus Sandakan Death March, a Borneo Trek called “In the Footsteps of the Brave”.

Invictus service personnel from different countries around the world joined together to demonstrate that despite their personal mental and physical challenges, they are still unconquered.

The Sandakan Death Marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau which resulted in the deaths of 2,434 allied prisoners of war held captive by the Empire of Japan during the Pacific campaign of World War II at the Sandakan POW Camp, North Borneo.  By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped.

As an Australian Veteran Owned company, EPE is honoured to support Adam on this admirable trek, paying respect to the Sandakan prisoners of war. We provide ongoing support to our many staff who have bravely served in both military and police.
We continue to support #veterans charities to raise awareness in all areas where we can help make a positive difference.

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@AuManufacturing Conversations Episode 78 — Ben Sorensen from EPE

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In the last episode for 2023, we hear from Ben Sorensen, Director of Innovation & Commercialisation at EPE.

He tells us about the importance of collaborating with Australian researchers, EPE’s role co-leading the ELO2 consortium hoping to build Australia’s very first lunar rover, and more.

Episode guide

0:22 – EPE’s focus: protecting people in hazardous environments, typically defence personnel. Supplying and sustaining hundreds of robots and thousands of sensors for customers.

1:20 – Leading EPE’s innovation company. Work includes commercialising new products with CSIRO.

2:50 – Joining the company via Data61 and the role of R&D in strategy.

5:26 – Collaborations with CSIRO.

7:23 – Moon to Mars Trailblazer Stage 1.

9:40 – The on-earth value of building technology for the moon.

11:14 – Why the space industry is important in general.

12:10 – The Big Dipper and Little Dipper challenges.

13:28 – Capital – and how we feel about capital – is an issue to address. We also need to be bolder and better able to partner with researchers.

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EPE New Zealand Limited secures contract to enhance the New Zealand Defence Force’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance capabilities with Exensor Flexnet Remote Ground Sensor capabilities.

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EPE New Zealand Limited secures contract to enhance the New Zealand Defence Force’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance capabilities with Exensor Flexnet Remote Ground Sensor capabilities.

EPE New Zealand Limited (EPE) in collaboration with Bertin Exensor, has been awarded a contract by the New Zealand Ministry of Defence to provide the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) with Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R & S) capabilities as part of the Networked Enabled Army (NEA) Programme.

EPE will deliver the Exensor Flexnet Remote Ground Sensor (RGS) system to enhance New Zealand Army situational awareness and support deployed command decision-making across all echelons of command. Through a Master Supply Agreement, specialist training and ongoing associated Through Life Support (TLS) will be delivered locally in New Zealand as part of the contract by EPE.

The contract will provide personnel with a scalable and modular sensing platform that provides real-time situational awareness and early warning, and identification of potential threats, enhancing commanders’ abilities to make quick, fact-based decisions and take necessary action.

A proven capability, Exensor sensors are in-service or trial with a number of countries including the UK, Australia, USA and several NATO countries.

Andy Cross, General Manager of EPE New Zealand Limited said ‘An essential requirement for NZDF is the demonstrated capacity and capability to deliver the equipment and training, and commit to ongoing maintenance and support. As a team, EPE and Exensor have the unique ability to achieve this. We also aim to equip soldiers with technology that not only provides strategic advantage, but also enhances decision-making while safeguarding them from threats.’

Marcus Rosenqvist, VP Sales & Marketing of Bertin Exensor AB said, ‘In recent years, the use and need for the Flexnet RGS technology among forces worldwide has increased. Exensor is proud to be selected together with EPE for the supply of the latest generation of Flexnet RGS’.

 

About Bertin Exensor
Bertin Exensor is a world-leading supplier of Remote Ground Sensors (UGS) systems. Designed by Bertin Exensor, the Flexnet RGS system combines intelligence collected by seismic, acoustic, and TI sensors to detect and identify threats and targets. Flexnet is perfectly suited to military and civilian applications such as force protection, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), and monitoring of critical assets and sensitive areas. Bertin Exensor now counts over 70 employees, with facilities located both in Sweden and the United-Kingdom. Since 2017, the company is part of the French group Bertin Technologies, a well-known actor in the European Defense and Security market.

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Defence to receive Remote Ground Sensors and Uncrewed Aircraft Systems

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EPE New Zealand Limited will supply a number of quadcopter Micro UAS, which are backpack portable and can be operational in less than 75 seconds. The company will also supply Remote Ground Sensor systems, which combine seismic, acoustic and infrared sensors to detect and identify moving objects. Both systems will be used by 2/1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.

United States based Quantum-Systems Inc. will deliver a number of Small UAS for 16 Field Regiment, which are backpack portable, have a wingspan of three metres when assembled, and can be operational within three minutes.

Australian company Criterion Solutions PTY will deliver a number of Nano UAS, which can be operational in less than 20 seconds and will be used by 2/1 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. These UAS have a single rotor air frame and fit into a pouch.

The systems will reduce risk to personnel by providing timely and accurate information for operations planning, as well as risk assessment activities.

Sarah Minson, Ministry of Defence Deputy Secretary Capability Delivery, says the systems will be deployed by New Zealand Army during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, combat, and search and rescue operations.

“The systems will improve the ability of the New Zealand Army to undertake reconnaissance and surveillance operations, in areas that may otherwise be inaccessible, such as cyclone damaged regions or combat zones.”

These new systems will not be armed as their primary purpose is to extend situational awareness beyond-line-of-sight.

For more information about the project visit the Network Enabled Army page.

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EPE co-host East Coast Forum Boardroom Breakfast with Ambassador of Ukraine

Very pleased to host His Excellency Vasyl Myroshnychenko – Ambassador of Ukraine, at another excellent East Coast Forum Boardroom Breakfast. Great insights on the resilience of the Ukrainian people as they prepare to face another long hard winter. MAJ Gen Mick Ryan, AM (Rtd) fresh from his most recent trip to Ukraine, provided his thoughts on the current military situation. Ukraine must prevail in this conflict. It will shape the face of the International World Order for the next 50 to 60 years.

EPE. Trusted To Protect, through our partnership with Minelab Metal Detectors was included in the most recently announced aid package supplied by Australian Defence to Ukraine. These land mine detectors are now in country, and helping to reduce the explosive threats faced by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the current counter offensive. They are also an essential tool to help people reclaim their land and homes. So much more needs to be done to help Ukraine fight and win this war.

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Field Robotics Webinar by Robotics Australia Group

Last week Robotics Australia Group hosted an industry webinar exploring the topic.

Together with EPE Innovation Director Ben Sorenson, Dr Joe CroninKate D.Andrew BateDr. John Vial and Nicci Rossouw.

Discussion focused on:

  • The growing Australian robotics industry and how it enables other industries
  • Collaboration between research organisations and industry to develop new capability
  • Competing on the global scale
  • Funding, government support and picking winners
  • How robotics creates new jobs, improve Australia’s productivity and worker safety
  • Standards, assurance, cybersecurity
  • Designing lunar rovers for the moon and using this tech to solve problems here on earth
  • Getting to robotic ubiquity (more, cheaper, faster, and how we can do it here!)

 

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The Australian Space Agency wants to bring everyone on our nation’s journey to the Moon.

Acknowledgement to Channel 7 Sunrise – 5 September 2023

Earlier today, Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency announced a naming competition for the lunar rover that will go to the Moon in 2026.

The ELO2 Consortium lead by EPE and Lunar Outpost Oceania is one of two teams that has spent the last few months designing and developing that rover!

The Australian Space Agency, in partnership with NASA, is working with Australia’s space industry to design and build an Australian-made rover. It’s part of the Trailblazer program under the Moon to Mars initiative.

Drawing on Australia’s world-leading remote operations expertise, the rover will collect lunar soil, known as regolith. NASA will attempt to extract oxygen from the sample. This is a key step towards a sustainable human presence on the Moon.

The rover will go to the Moon as part of a future Artemis mission by as early as 2026.

 

The competition

Australians can enter a name that will be in the running to be selected for the rover.

Individuals and schools across Australia can enter a rover name, along with a brief explanation for choosing it.

How to enter

The competition is now open. We will select a shortlist of 4 names from your entries and put them to a public vote. We’ll announce the winner in December.

https://consult.industry.gov.au/name-australias-lunar-rover

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Defence invests in the next generation of CBRN scientists

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A Defence postgraduate training initiative will boost the pool of STEM professionals capable of developing solutions that will enable Defence, national security and first responders to operate safely and effectively in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) environments.

DEFENCE INVESTS IN THE NEXT GENERATION OF CBRN SCIENTISTS

Pictured: PROCESS Academy students and representatives from DSTG and PROCESS partner organisations at the EPE facilities in Brisbane.

The Postgraduate Research for OCE STaR Shot (PROCESS) Academy was recently launched in Brisbane, in the headquarters of Defence industry partner EPE.

Dr Nick FitzGerald is Science, Technology and Innovation Lead for Defence’s Operating in CBRN Environments (OCE) STaR Shot. According to Dr FitzGerald, the PROCESS Academy investment will have multiple benefits. ‘Beyond the cool science that we can explore, PROCESS helps us understand the OCE ecosystem,’ he says. ‘At the same time we’ll be creating the next generation of CBRN STEM specialists. Like Defence, our industry and agency partners are looking for smart people to fill positions in the future, so they appreciate the forward-looking element of this initiative.’

Seven PhD students in the PROCESS pilot cohort participated in the orientation, which was delivered by industry partners EPE and Leidos with the support of ANSTO, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), CASG and the Australian Army.

Imbuing context, connections and community

‘Our aim with the orientation was to give the students context, connections and community,’ says Dr FitzGerald, who developed the innovative Black Canary wearable, autonomous chemical exposure detection tool at DSTG. ‘We wanted to help the students hit the ground running by giving them an understanding of the CBRN problem space they’ll be working in. We did this through practical, experiential learning and targeted, classroom-based activities. We also introduced them, over several days, into a new network of professionals and experts in the CBRN defence and national security space, thereby building a sense of community.’

Dr FitzGerald believes imbuing students and academic supervisors with an understanding of the problem space will improve the quality of the research, and will lead to chance and coordinated interactions with potential employers beyond Defence.

Army supported the event by providing access to real CBRN protection, detection and hazard management equipment and by delivering an in-person introductory presentation on the first day of the “O” Week (delivered by the CBRN cell of Army Headquarters Combat Support Directorate).

Leidos, which holds the Land 2110 Phase 1B contract for the provision of CBRN materiel and associated training, provided members of its training team to explain the military equipment (including examples of newly acquired Defence materiel) and to outline how it is being used in threat detection, identification, monitoring, warning and protection tasks.

At the EPE proving grounds the students donned the MOPP-4 CBRN protective suit and carried out representative operations to experience for themselves the difficulties experienced by first responders and warfighters.

Students learned about CBRN equipment, and had a chance to personally experience the difficult nature of working in full-body CBRN protective gear.

Students learned about CBRN equipment, and had a chance to personally experience the difficult nature of working in full-body CBRN protective gear.

Experiencing difficulties first-hand

The PROCESS orientation was both enjoyable and valuable says student Lize Coetzee. She was grateful for the chance to hear from many industry partners and experts about various aspects of CBRN environments. ‘This deepened my understanding, particularly about the reality of being out in the field and what a soldier or first-responder might value in their equipment,’ Coetzee reflects. ‘One highlight was the opportunity to complete a variety of activities while wearing full CBRN kit which gave me first-hand experience in how difficult it is to perform activities requiring dexterity, communication, and physical effort. These are practical considerations that I had not thought of previously, but which will help guide my own research to better meet the needs of end users.’

Coetzee is developing a laser sensor which can be operated at a distance of 10 metres to identify a variety of chemical and biological hazards.

Industry partners see benefits

EPE Managing Director Warwick Penrose says his company’s support of PROCESS has an emphasis on practical immersion to build an awareness of the current Defence CBRN baseline capability. ‘This is in order to build the student’s understanding of the challenges that operators face when working in CBRN environments,’ he says. ‘At the completion of this training the PhD students had a better understanding of how Defence will apply the research being funded via the OCE STaR Shot, so that the benefits of their research can be applied more quickly.’

Looking to learn more about the Operating in CBRN Environments (OCE) STaR Shot?

The threat of CBRN attacks against military forces and civilian populations is growing which means our forces must be able to respond faster and more flexibly to CBRN events.

 

Originally published on the Australian Government Department of Defence News

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Factory Acceptance Testing robots at ICP Newtech for an international customer

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EPE has been in Ireland at the ICP Newtech robotics manufacturing and test and evaluation facility. Seamus O’Brien and Jack Batty from the EPE team spent time at ICP completing Factory Acceptance Testing on a fleet of Uncrewed Ground Vehicles including six Avenger 2.0 and four Vanguard ST. The fleet has undergone complete inspection, test and evaluation, including range testing, prior to delivery to our government agency customer in the Indo Pacific region.  The fleet will provide enhanced capabilities for bomb disposal and tactical response groups to remove operators from hazards.  Seamus O’Brien has extensive experience as an EOD technician and specialist Counter IED trainer bringing an operational perspective to the test and evaluation process.  Jack Batty is one of the leading robotics technicians in the Australasian region, one of the only technicians to be accredited by multiple leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to repair and upgrade their platforms outside the manufacturing facilities.  Once delivered to our customer EPE will provide specialist operator training and Through Life Support to optimise the capability.

We thank Kieran Nolan and the ICP Newtech team for the ongoing partnership and trust with EPE that has spanned over a decade.

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Adam Modd’s Story : NZDF Invictus Games Team 2023


Adam Modd GM, DSD our Senior Solutions Architect is representing New Zealand Defence Force at the up-and-coming Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 in September this year.

Adam has experienced some significant injuries and traumatic exposures throughout his long and distinguished military career in Bomb Disposal and Special Operations. In the spirit of the games and for awareness, Adam has shared some of his own personal challenges that he has overcome. EPE. Trusted To Protect proudly supports veterans and promotes mental health awareness for everyone.

 

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A simple guide to understanding Blue UAS vs NDAA Compliant vs American-Made drone requirements in 2023

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Blue sUAS Skydio

JUNE 12, 2023

This article from the US has important implications and transferability to Australia.

As government policies and rules on drones proliferate, drone buyers confront a sea of security focused phrases, from “NDAA compliance” to “Blue UAS” and beyond. This blog answers the key questions we hear the most:

  • What type of secure drone do I need?
  • What is the Blue UAS list and is it the same as NDAA compliance?
  • I was told to get a drone from the Blue List – what does that mean?
  • What if it is an American made drone?
  • If the drone has some parts from China, or says “Made in China”, can it still be compliant?

Before we go further, a couple of caveats. 1) This isn’t meant to be legal advice, and 2) it only covers developments in the U.S.

Every federal and state security policy revolves around the same core concern: our geopolitical adversaries are using untrustworthy technology to gain a strategic advantage. In response, policy makers are increasingly taking action by issuing requirements to curb potential threats among drones used within their jurisdiction.

NDAA Compliance: What is it and what does it mean for Unmanned Aerial Systems?

In the drone industry, “NDAA compliance” is shorthand for “supply chain security.” NDAA compliance refers to a federal law prohibiting the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) from buying drones:

  1. manufactured in a covered foreign country, or by a company based in a covered foreign country; or
  2. that use flight controllers, radios, data transmission devices, cameras, gimbals, ground control systems, or operating software manufactured in a covered foreign country or by a company based in a covered foreign country.

That law, Section 848 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), defined a “covered foreign country” to mean China. In 2022, Congress updated the law to include Russia, Iran and North Korea. Recently, Congress extended the law even further to apply to the private sector. Beginning in October 2024, private companies can not use DJI to perform contracts for the Department of Defense.

NDAA compliance is primarily focused on the supply chain–where the drone and its key components are made, and where the manufacturer is based. Importantly, it is not a rule that the drone must be 100% free of all parts from a covered foreign country, only those specifically listed in #2 above.

How does a drone become NDAA compliant?  There is no single formal certifying body for NDAA compliant UAS. Companies can self-certify. But one organization has stepped up to make this easier, at least for the DoD.

Beyond NDAA: What it Means to be Blue UAS or on the “Blue List”

To make it easier for military services to buy secure commercial drones, DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit created a program known as Blue UAS. Selection as a Blue UAS drone verifies NDAA compliance. But it doesn’t stop there. In addition to evaluating supply chain security, the Blue UAS program conducts demanding cybersecurity assessments, ensuring approved drones can protect sensitive military information. The result of these extensive assessments yielded the Blue sUAS list, colloquially called the “Blue List.”

NDAA Compliance vs. BlueUAS: Tradeoffs for Takeoff

If you’re a private company or state and local organization, is selecting a drone as easy as reviewing the Blue UAS list, selecting one, and calling it a day? Likely, no.

To meet military-grade security requirements, every Blue UAS must be “offline”, unable to connect to the internet. That requirement makes sense for the military, but for the vast majority of organizations that means an inability to benefit from capabilities that enable live streaming, software updates, and seamless data sharing with systems of record.

Enterprise-grade security is typically enough for most private sector organizations. Skydio’s Security Trust Center can provide examples of the types of enterprise-grade security you should be seeking. Additionally, some organizations have ‘online’ versions of the same drone found on the Blue sUAS list with full NDAA compliance, such as the Skydio X2E.

American-Made Drones: Satisfying Fast-Moving Federal and State Policies

In recent years, federal and state rules on trustworthy drones have multiplied. Those actions began at the federal level. It is federal policy to prevent the use of taxpayer dollars to buy drones made by companies based in China and to “to encourage the use of domestically produced UAS.” Congress has also enacted laws requiring the military and the U.S. Coast Guard to use secure, NDAA-compliant systems. Consistent with overall federal policy, many federal departments have issued their own restrictions on using or funding drones made in China, including the Departments of InteriorJustice and Homeland Security.

States often follow the federal government’s lead on security matters. At least six states have issued their own restrictions on untrustworthy drones by state or local agencies: ArkansasTexasIndianaMississippiCalifornia, and Florida. Florida also passed a $25M grant program to support agencies transitioning to secure systems in 2023-2024. Although some states impose supply chain security requirements, none require the use of a Blue UAS drone. In general, drones produced domestically by U.S. companies will satisfy state laws.

Outside of companies that do business with DoD, private enterprises generally are not required to follow these federal and state policies. Even so, many organizations, particularly in critical infrastructure sectors, are electing to choose American-made drones for added safety and security. Trustworthy technology is good for business, and knowing your drone purchases will not be grounded by future legislation reduces risk.

To Summarize:

Blue sUAS Skydio Summary

 

Acknowledge to Skydio

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EPE hosting international government agency at EPE HQ in Brisbane

As part of EPE International’s provision of specialist capability and training in the Indo-Pacific region, our team was honoured to host an international government agency at EPE HQ in Brisbane.

Our team of Police and Military veterans delivered specialist CBRN equipment training and provided a tour of EPE’s MILTECS facility incorporating CBRNe Test Laboratory and Robotics training and testing facility.

 

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Skydio 2+ undergoes a comprehensive compliance check in Australia performed by EPE Through Life Support team to meet OEM specifications

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EPE has delivered an order of Skydio S2+ drones to an Australian customer. As issues around trust and security are heightened in Australia and New Zealand, Skydio provides a drone manufactured in the USA with the world’s most advanced autonomy technology and the highest standards of cyber and supply chain security. All equipment provided by EPE undergoes a complete compliance check here in Australia to ensure it meets OEM specifications.

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Australian and veteran owned companies partner on Australian-first deployable forensic labs

Australian and veteran owned companies partner on Australian-first deployable forensic labs news

Nova Systems will play a key role in supporting EPE in the ongoing maintenance and support of two Weapons Technical Intelligence (WTI) labs, as part of the Land 154 Phase 2 sustainment program.

EPE has been awarded the LAND154 Phase 2 contract, a capability program that will improve the Australian Defence Force’s joint counter-improvised explosive device response.

The Weapons Technical Intelligence (WTI) facilities are a series of deployable containers, consisting predominantly of specialist scientific laboratory equipment.

Being deployable means they can be transported and utilised on-scene, allowing for rapid assessment of weapons effects and explosive devices.

Similar facilities developed overseas have enabled the rapid deployment of counter-measures during operations to protect Australian Defence Force (ADF) and allied forces.

EPE’s LAND 154-2 Project Director, Keith Mollison, said: “Nova Systems is a true Australian success story. The partnership between EPE and Nova Systems creates an all-Australian team to optimise this capability, while further building specialist scientific, engineering and weapons technical intelligence expertise here in Australia.”

Nova Systems Chief Operating Officer, Steven Robinson, said: “This capability gives Australia a seat on the world stage, aligning with AUKUS and NATO partners to have a deployable WTI capability that improves interoperability and will save lives.

“As part of our partnership with EPE, Nova Systems will ensure the WTI labs are sustained and ready for deployment at a moment’s notice.

“EPE’s expertise in level 2 exploitation and specialist project management is complemented by Nova Systems’ world-leading engineering capability.

“Both companies are Australian-owned and veteran founded, together building enduring sovereign skills and capability, which makes for the perfect partnership to support the ADF.”

The five-year contract includes a long-term sustainment opportunity, with the labs based in Brisbane, Queensland and Edinburgh, South Australia.

Credit to Nova Systems News 

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Bombs, deployments, explosions and scars

34-year Army veteran Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Adam Modd GM, DSD, has dedicated his professional life to Bomb Disposal which has seen him committed to domestic duties, frequent overseas deployments to combat zones, and humanitarian aid missions.

Risk, danger and destruction have all been part of a day-to-day existence where he strove to save lives and restore normality.    

LTCOL Modd will compete alongside 21 others as part of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Invictus Games team in Düsseldorf, Germany in September 2023.

In 2007 after spending 22-years in the British Army, LTCOL Modd and his family moved to New Zealand when he approached and asked to join the NZDF to be part of a project that would develop and introduce new Bomb Disposal Capabilities.

LTCOL Modd has defused thousands of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s), Unexploded Ordnance (UXO’S), and mines in all over the world, in over 20 different countries. His commitment to Bomb Disposal has seen him shot, blown up, broken bones, amongst many other injuries.

In 2002 he was awarded the George Medal for Gallantry by Her Majesty the Late Queen Elizabeth II, in 2021 he was awarded the New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, he has also been awarded two United States of America Bravery awards, and three FBI commendations.

Adam Modd Invitcus Games 2

In 2009 he broke his neck, resulting in the need for multiple surgeries and a permanent fusion with titanium cervical implant. In 2011 he was severely injured in Afghanistan whilst serving with 1st New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment (1NZSAS). This incident required hospital treatments in Afghanistan, Germany, and Auckland before he was able to return to Wellington hospital and finally home.

“I was pretty banged up, fracturing my skull, rupturing my liver and breaking my back in three places, amongst other injuries, but all part of the job” he said.

He required a range of complex surgeries starting in 2011 and continuing through to 2018, with degeneration likely to continue as he ages. His accumulated injuries were assessed to have left him 42% disabled, he has also been challenged with depression and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Bomb Disposal is a dangerous, highly committed, relentless, and intensive career choice. I feel it was my calling, it has been an honour to serve, going into harm’s way, putting my life at risk to save others. Despite all the sacrifices and injuries, if I had a choice I would do it all over again.”

Visually LTCOL Modd doesn’t appear to be that badly injured, but the permanent damage, and various surgeries have left him with multiple spinal fusions, titanium/cobalt implants, restricted movements, and other ailments.

“I have a lot of continuous pain. It wears you down physically, mentally, and it’s often incapacitating. I find that the concealed scars, mental trauma, and pain can easily go unrecognised when they aren’t so apparent.

“This goes unnoticed by those who don’t know our stories and Invictus helps promote understanding,” he said.

He said the mental and physical trauma suffered is something that doesn’t go away, you don’t get back the things you missed, the things you have lost, nor regain the things you couldn’t do and still can’t do.

Invictus provides an opportunity for some balance, to achieve goals, and to get something back. I acknowledge that I am one of the lucky people who survived, and I often think of our friends and colleagues who didn’t survive.

“I believe Invictus is for them too, allowing us to remember them, honour them, and pay our respects to one and all,” LTCOL Modd said.

LTCOL Modd’s career has come with many family sacrifices, especially for his wife Suzanne, son Connol, and daughter Farrell. He has completed over 16 operational deployments, which has seen him spend more than 12 calendar years away from his family in combat zones, or dangerous troubled areas.

“Many birthdays, Christmas’s, family celebrations, anniversaries and other special occasions with my family and friends were missed and lost. There are so many photos where my absence is apparent, and we relate them to where I was in the world at the time, or what hospital I was in,” he said.

He said it is important to acknowledge that families and friends suffer too, they worry, cope, they see their loved ones hurt, and they care for them. Their stories and sacrifices go unnoticed and untold too. Invictus provides a way to acknowledge families and offers some healing opportunities for them too.

“My family has been amazing, supporting me in my career, my service away overseas, and helping me convalesce. They have helped me through my struggles, and losses in a way that offered dignity,” LTCOL Modd said.

Adam Modd Invitcus Games

While initially applying for the 2016 team and being accepted, military commitments and surgery requirements meant he could not attend, and he thought that his Invictus goal was lost.

LTCOL Modd said being part of the team and an activity that seeks to promote mutual recognition, mental and physical support, and general wellbeing means more to him than words can portray.

“The whānau aspect of Invictus is also important to me. Like many of the competitors past and present I feel this is a unique opportunity to be part of something quite special.

“It is hard to explain the way we collectively feel, it’s not closure that we seek, we know that it’s not possible to change what happened or the impact it had on our careers and course of our lives.

“Invictus gives a sense of purpose, belonging, and an ability to recover in a way that far exceeds just medical interventions, and helps heal others by sharing and supporting one another.”

He said Invictus is about being part of something, with people you know, people who understand, people who have common feelings, and people focussed on mutual support.

Invictus is about getting together as a group, giving back some dignity, self-worth, and showing that despite being broken we can be in a sporting competitive environment. Even getting together as a team and training together has created amazing positive feelings.

LTCOL Modd said he is most looking forward to walking out at the opening ceremony of the Games as part of team New Zealand.

“I will be feeling so proud, feeling that I belong, and feeling strong standing shoulder to shoulder with my Invictus whānau. It will also be quite special having some of my family there sharing the experience, and knowing those who are not there will be proud that we could contribute to such an amazing event,” he said.

He will compete in Archery, Table Tennis, Rowing, Wheelchair Basketball and Wheelchair Rugby at the Games.

About The Invictus Games

The sixth Invictus Games will take place in Düsseldorf from 9-16 September under the motto “A HOME FOR RESPECT” and together with the German Armed Forces, will welcome around 500 competitors from more than 20 nations, as well as around 1,000 family members and friends, to compete in ten sporting disciplines.

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Portable chemical analysis for drug investigations promises more reliable and just results

Scientists aim to combat false positives and user error by making spectrometers smaller and smarter—and educating law enforcement on proper technique

In February 2022, a police department in Texas announced that it had busted a truck driver for hauling some 2,600 L of liquid methamphetamine. Using tests that mixed the substance in question with tubes of reagents, officers from the Pharr Police Department and the US Drug Enforcement Administration found that the cargo tested positive for the illicit drug. Accused of transporting about $10 million worth of drugs, the driver, Juan Carlos Toscano Guzman, spent almost 6 weeks in jail, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. But the truck’s load wasn’t meth.

Colorimetric test kits had ensnared another individual. Used since the 1970s, the tests are available for dozens of drugs but don’t always provide reliable results. At least 100,000 people across the US plead guilty to possessing drugs after positive field tests each year, according to a ProPublica estimate, so even a modest error rate—due to officers’ lacking proper training, mixing reagents in the wrong order, or getting a false positive—could mean that thousands of people’s lives are unfairly upended.

In establishing the possibility of a drug’s presence, color tests do what they’re supposed to do, says forensic scientist Brooke Kammrath of the University of New Haven. “But they’re misunderstood by the general population and the people who are using them.”

What ended up exonerating Guzman were laboratory tests. He was transporting a mix of oil and diesel, according to his lawyer. Lab methods such as Raman spectroscopy, infrared (IR) spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry are selective and more reliable methods for identifying drugs, but the delay in analyzing samples in the lab can slow investigations and leave innocent people like Guzman behind bars.

Portable versions of such spectrometers are available for police and other drug enforcement agents to use on-site, but miniaturizing analytical tools can come with trade-offs in resolution and sensitivity. To make up for that, some chemists, forensic scientists, and even data scientists have started working on ways to extract more accurate information from field samples collected by police. Some scientists have played a vital role in encouraging the equipment’s availability and adoption and in helping police understand how portable instruments can make law enforcement easier and fairer. “These are sophisticated scientific tools that we’re putting in the hands of potentially nonscientists,” Kammrath says. Scientists need to understand and explain the instruments’ advantages and limitations to ensure the equipment is being used properly, she says.

SHRINKING SPECTROMETERS

Portable spectrometers have long been used by nonscientists. Some of the earliest spectrometers that could be taken into the field appeared in the 1950s, including a portable IR spectrometer the US military developed to detect chemical warfare agents. Such instruments became common in the tool kits of US hazmat and threat response teams in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks that started a week after 9/11. Today’s array of portable instruments includes optical spectrometers, such as Raman, near-IR and mid-IR, mass, and ion mobility spectrometers.

Especially in the past 20 years, portable instruments have gotten smaller. Some mass spectrometers have shrunk to the size of a briefcase, while some Raman and IR spectrometers can be a bit larger than a deck of playing cards. “The whole revolution in consumer electronics has helped these enormously,” says Richard A. Crocombe, a spectroscopist who runs his own scientific consulting firm. Diode lasers, such as those developed for CD and Blu-ray players and other advances in telecommunications, have helped optical spectrometers slim down. And mass specs have benefited from smaller ion traps. With smaller components that can run on less power, the devices’ footprints have dwindled.

But generally, “portable instruments are not the same as their benchtop counterparts,” Kammrath says. Portable Raman spectrometers can’t yet achieve the throughput and sensitivity that benchtop systems can, and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) instruments are limited by the type and length of columns available. Resolution can be an issue, for instance, with high-pressure mass spectrometry, in which mixture components aren’t separated before analysis. For comparison, some benchtop mass specs have resolutions eight times as high as these machines.

When it comes to illicit drugs, people who clean up clandestine labs also use portable instruments to test whether the unidentified substances they encounter are dangerous. Both IR and Raman spectrometers are simple and fast to use, but IR techniques require the sample to be placed in contact with the detector. For Raman, “you can have a plastic baggie of raw materials, and you can shoot right through it and get a spectrum,” says Pauline E. Leary, a spectroscopist at Noble Supply & Logistics, which sells equipment, including spectrometers, for military applications and low-resource environments.

At the same time, each portable device has benefits and limitations: GC/MS can parse complex mixtures but destroys the sample, whereas Raman doesn’t. Fluorescence from a sample can mask a drug’s Raman signal, while water in a sample can overwhelm an IR spectrum. So combining multiple tests to create a tool kit is the best approach, Kammrath says. A recent study formed a tool kit containing handheld or portable Raman, Fourier transform IR (FT-IR), and mass spec devices. Researchers at the US Food and Drug Administration found that, using at least one of the three instruments, they could detect 81 of 88 different active pharmaceutical ingredients. When at least two techniques were used, at least one instrument detected all ingredients. Overall, the tool kit’s results were as reliable as a full-service lab (J. Pharm. Biomed. Anal. 2021, DOI: 10.1016/j.jpba.2021.114183).

According to recommendations for laboratory testing of drugs, users can pair various methods—such as color tests with GC/MS or ion mobility with IR spectroscopy, Kammrath says. Having two orthogonal techniques casts a wide net to identify many types of unknowns.

A spectrum of portable tools

Workhorse methods of portable chemical analysis need to be fast and require little sample preparation. Each comes with trade-offs
in sensitivity and possible application.

Raman spectroscopy

Up-front cost: $12,500–$25,000

Sample handling: Scans through glass and quartz containers and transparent plastics

Data acquisition time: Few seconds to 1 min

Destructive? No

Target applications: Single-component samples, high-concentration mixtures, white powders, liquids and tablets

Problematic samples: Dark, colored, and fluorescent materials, mixtures with trace amounts (e.g., pills with trace fentanyl), plant samples (e.g., marijuana)

Infrared spectroscopy

Up-front cost: $25,000–$50,000

Sample handling: Must be in direct contact with a sample

Data acquisition time: <1 min

Destructive? No

Target applications: Single-component samples, white powders, liquids and tablets

Problematic samples: Mixtures with low-concentration components, samples containing water

High-pressure mass spectrometry

Up-front cost: >$50,000

Sample handling: Analyzes a swab of a surface or packaging

Data acquisition time: 10–30 s

Destructive? Yes

Target applications: Trace amounts of analytes, mixtures

Problematic samples: Samples with concentrated components

Near-infrared spectroscopy

Up-front cost: $2,000–$37,500

Sample handling: Scans through glass and quartz containers and transparent plastics

Data acquisition time: 5 s

Destructive? No

Target applications: Single-component samples, high-concentration mixtures, white powders

Problematic samples: Mixtures with low-concentration components

Ion mobility spectrometry

Up-front cost: $10,000–$37,500

Sample handling: Analyzes a swab of a surface or packaging

Data acquisition time: 10–30 s

Destructive? Yes

Target applications: Trace amounts of analytes, high-concentration mixtures

Problematic samples: Samples with concentrated components (e.g., purified powders) that can overload the detector

Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

Up-front cost: >$50,000

Sample handling: Analyzes a sample that has been removed from packaging and dissolved in solvent

Data acquisition time: 4–15 min

Destructive? Yes

Target applications: Trace amounts of analytes, separation of mixtures

Problematic samples: Plant samples that are not dissolved, samples with concentrated components

Sources: Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, Landscape Study of Field Portable Devices for Presumptive Drug Testing, 2018; Richard Crocombe, “The Ever-Shrinking Spectrometer: New Technologies and Applications,” in Sense the Real Change: Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Near Infrared Spectroscopy Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, Landscape Study of Field Portable Devices for Presumptive Drug Testing, 2018; Richard Crocombe, “The Ever-Shrinking Spectrometer: New Technologies and Applications,” in Sense the Real Change: Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Near Infrared Spectroscopy, ed. Xiaoli Chu et al. (Springer Singapore, 2022), DOI: 10.1007/978-981-19-4884-8_2; “Spectroscopy outside the Laboratory” 2022, DOI: 10.56530/spectroscopy.lz8466z5.

FINDING THE SIGNAL IN THE NOISE

Forensic scientists scanning a crime scene may need to see what’s hardly there—trace powders, residues in a container, dopants that make up a small part of a mixture found in the field. The spectra they get from portable instruments often can’t identify a very small amount of a substance among the noise caused by, say, other ingredients in a drug sample, Leary explains.

US law enforcement agencies have recently seized large amounts of low-dose fentanyl pills. Some of these pills had 1% or less of the synthetic opioid and mostly contained the Tylenol ingredient acetaminophen. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, less than 2 mg of fentanyl can be a fatal dose. Instrument manufacturers claimed their equipment could detect fentanyl in such pills, but Leary and Kammrath found that most of the techniques fell short when used in tests.

Acetaminophen and fentanyl have similar IR peaks, and neither IR nor Raman can detect concentrations as low as 1% anyway. With some portable mass spectrometry methods, the acetaminophen would overwhelm the detector. Ion mobility spectrometry could detect 1% fentanyl in the mixture, but the technique isn’t considered the most reliable, because unrelated ions of similar size and weight could have similar mobilities as those of a drug. “A lot of times for these field instruments, we just can’t get the limits of detection we need for a specific problem,” Leary says.

To remedy such problems, Kammrath and her colleagues are trying to come up with new ways to extract trace fentanyl from a mixture so it can be analyzed in the field with a more discriminating technique. Their working prototype is based on an extraction system from RedWave Technology, a company that develops portable FT-IR instruments. It hinges on a portable tool that takes a powder or pill and does a solvent extraction to concentrate any fentanyl present. An officer could then paint the resulting solution onto the IR detector for a scan. Extraction techniques could potentially expand the range of samples that can be analyzed by portable IR spectroscopy, Kammrath says. Of course, extractions aren’t one size fits all, so new tools would have to be developed to extract other trace drugs.

Parallel to efforts to physically concentrate samples, researchers are also finding ways to unmask components hiding in mixtures by digitally parsing their raw spectral data. There was a time when searching for tricky-to-spot spectroscopic features was like “chasing a ghost,” says Igor K. Lednev, a laser spectroscopist at the University at Albany. For instance, peaks from some components in a mixture could be rendered invisible by the spectral contributions of substances present in much higher concentrations, like in the case of pills with trace fentanyl. “Now, if we combine Raman spectroscopy with statistical analysis, we can reliably detect and identify components in a mixture which you don’t see with the naked eye,” Lednev says.

This approach relies on matching spectral data against databases of known compounds. But sometimes a dangerous drug, such as a fentanyl analog, may be missing. “That particular fentanyl analog may be completely new, and it’s not in our set of what’s familiar,” says Phillip Koshute, a data scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He and colleagues have developed machine learning approaches to detect such drugs’ signals lurking in mass spectra and Raman spectra (Forensic Chem. 2022, DOI: 10.1016/j.forc.2021.100379; SSRN 2022, DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.4246466). Working with chemists to zero in on the most important spectral features, the researchers trained machine learning models on pure substances’ spectra to detect fentanyl analogs. “The next step would be repeating the process but with the real-world, messy data,” Koshute says.

The capability to analyze mixtures or identify novel compounds could someday be built into instruments, Lednev says. Portable spectrometers are already equipped to transmit their data wirelessly. Spectra could be sent to a cloud-based tool for machine learning, returning a determination and confidence interval.

IN THE FIELD

Compared with hazmat teams and fire departments, “the forensic community has been very slow to adopt portable instruments,” Kammrath says. But some police departments and crime labs are starting to take to the devices.

Since 2011, dozens of agencies around Alabama have begun using portable Raman spectroscopy for drug testing in the field or the lab. Mark Hopwood was then the director of one of the state’s crime labs, and a backlog of some 30,000 drug cases statewide required testing. “It was taking anywhere from a year to 2 years to get lab results back,” says Hopwood, who is now a forensic scientist at Jacksonville State University (JSU).

In an effort to reduce the backlog, Hopwood’s team tried out portable spectrometers, playing with the devices for a month and doing field trials. Of the systems tested, Thermo Fisher Scientific’s TruNarc handheld analyzer—which is a Raman spectrometer with only three buttons and looks like a chunky handheld gaming console—stood out for its ease of use and durability, Hopwood says. Additionally, “there was no way to manipulate data,” he says. For instance, it wouldn’t be possible for an officer acting in bad faith to scan sugar or salt and falsely name it as cocaine or another drug in the spectral library. If a scanned substance came up as an unknown, the team could use what’s called a reach-back service, getting support within hours or a day from Thermo scientists, who could help identify the compound and add the substance to the spectral library. Such services are already commonly used by hazmat teams that want a trained analyst to verify results or talk through data concerns, Noble’s Leary says.

The spectra of the scanned substance and its library match could be shared with defense attorneys, who could then advise defendants to either go to drug court or take a plea deal, Hopwood says. A plea deal based on a spectrometry result may be preferable to one based on less-reliable color tests. And in a case in which a conviction is likely, after lab-based testing, going to court may drag out the legal process, he adds.

These are sophisticated scientific tools that we’re putting in the hands of potentially nonscientists.
-Brooke Kammrath, forensic scientist, University of New Haven

The TruNarc devices helped cut Alabama’s pending caseload by about 30% within a few months. “It ended up freeing up the jails, saving the sheriffs money—because they’re not having to feed and house people”—and the courts were able to collect fines, Hopwood says.

A 2014 survey of portable Raman for drug testing calls Hopwood a “technology champion” for the instruments. He has helped departments adopt these devices and is training drug task force and narcotics units on how to use them. He has also opened his department at JSU to officers from nearby counties, making a few devices available for their use when they need a quick identification.

Funding can hinder police departments in adopting portable spectrometry, Kammrath says. A bill was introduced in the US Congress in 2019 that would have funded departments looking to buy portable instruments for drug testing, but it didn’t garner enough support to move forward.

Kammrath says scientists could help strengthen the argument for these devices and increase their appeal to lawmakers and police. A cost-benefit analysis targeted at law enforcement that details other tangible benefits, such as cost savings from not purchasing color tests, and intangible ones, such as the cost of life from wrongful arrests and incarcerations, could help change minds. “Portable instruments are rapid, they’re reliable, and they create a reviewable record,” she says. “We haven’t made a good-enough case as a scientific community for our need for these instruments.”

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Selected as a Trusted Drone Provider for US Federal Government in Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue sUAS Project

Selected as a Trusted Drone Provider for US Federal Government in Defense Innovation Unit’s Blue sUAS Project

AUGUST 20, 2020

Skydio, the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight, today announced that the new Skydio X2D has been selected as a trusted drone platform for the Department of Defense and Federal Government as part of DIU’s Blue sUAS Project. This is a major milestone in Skydio’s strategy to bring the power of its world leading autonomy engine to public sector customers. To provide the best possible support to clients, Skydio is also announcing the addition of new executive leadership and strategic partnership with ADS, Inc.

Skydio selected as an approved vendor in DIU’s Blue sUAS Project. DIU’s effort builds upon the U.S. Army’s small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) program of record, the Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR), for an inexpensive, rucksack portable, vertical take-off and landing sUAS. Skydio was selected as one of five Blue sUAS vendors out of dozens of applicants.

“It’s an honor to be selected as one of the few commercial companies asked to develop this technology in service to our country,” said Adam Bry, Skydio CEO. “As concerns around trust and security have grown, Skydio is proud to provide an American drone with the world’s most advanced autonomy technology and the highest standards of cyber and supply chain security. As the only U.S drone company manufacturing at scale, and the only company with a strong commercial and consumer foundation, we are uniquely well-suited to serve the needs of the nation’s warfighters.”

Skydio X2D, announced in July, meets the specifications outlined by DIU for a lightweight, short-range reconnaissance drone and is the only fully autonomous drone in the Blue sUAS group. Skydio drones are designed, assembled and supported in the United States providing the highest level of supply chain security. During its live demonstration at DIU’s Blue sUAS virtual launch on August 19th, Skydio showcased the X2D’s world leading autonomous flight capabilities that make it the ultimate solution for reconnaissance, search and rescue, and security patrol missions. Attending the event were representatives from top US government agencies, including Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Interior (DOI), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Agriculture (DoA), Department of Commerce (DoC), General Services Administration (GSA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Skydio announces new leadership to support public sector customers. Drawing talent from the world’s top national security, public safety, and enterprise drone organizations to provide world-class service to public sector customers. Skydio is announcing the addition of three key executive team members including:

  • Chuck McGraw as Director of Sales for the Public Sector. Prior to joining Skydio, Chuck spent 20 years as an elite SEAL Team leader, holding the positions of Assault Squadron Operations Chief, Basic Training Command Operations Chief, Master Training Specialist, Senior Program Manager and Assault Team Leader. His twenty-year career has included eleven combat deployments. He has worked on multi-million dollar projects developing and transitioning new technologies from the private sector into government in support of mission critical capability requirements.
  • Alden Jones as Senior Director of Customer Success. Alden joins Skydio from American Tower Corporation (ATC), where he founded and led their UAS program to conduct 20,000 automated inspections per year. Alden’s team trained 175 existing employees to become UAS pilots and built a custom back-end automated post-processing system for analysis. Alden started his career as a US Army platoon leader during a combat tour in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. He left the Army as a captain and went on to serve in leadership roles at UTC and Pepsico before joining ATC.
  • Fritz Reber as Head of Public Safety Integration. Fritz is a former Captain of the Chula Vista Police Department, where he served as UAS Commander and developed the agency’s internationally recognized Drone-as-First-Responder (DFR) program in partnership with the FAA’s San Diego Drone Integration Pilot Program (IPP). He co-authored the agency’s first-of-its-kind Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) waver for DFR, as well as the recent CVPD Tactical BVLOS waiver enabling Close Proximity, Low Altitude public safety missions. Fritz’s 27-year law enforcement experience provides customer agencies with a knowledgeable resource for effective implementation of UAS into public safety operations.

“We have built a world class direct team and partner ecosystem with unmatched industry expertise to support Public Sector customers as they expand their next generation drone platforms. The combination of Skydio’s US-based leadership in UAS autonomy combined with our team’s experience in building scalable drone programs provides unmatched value to our customers,” added Skydio Chief Operating Officer, Mark Cranney.

Skydio announces new partnership with ADS. Government supplier ADS will serve as a reseller and contracting partner for Skydio’s public sector sales. ADS holds more than 60 Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts and Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) and has grown to be the #1 Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Supplier and a Top 50 Federal Government Contractor. Skydio’s forthcoming X2D drone will be listed on the General Services Administration (GSA) schedule and available for procurement starting in Q4 2020.

“Skydio’s autonomy features are game changing in the small UAS grouping. As the world’s leading distributor of military rated UAS, ADS is pleased to provide Skydio full support as they roll out the X2D autonomous solution to the defense and commercial sectors. Having a US based IP firm and domestic manufacturing allows Skydio to blend the best in technology with home grown production, ADS is really excited to see this benefit our mutual customers,” said Ryan Angold, ADS Senior VP of Sales.

Source: Skydio

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Defence announces EPE to prime the sustainment of Australia’s first deployable Weapons Technical Intelligence laboratories.

Canberra, Australia, April 20, 2023.Today, Defence announced Australian veteran owned company, EPE as the prime contractor for the sustainment of Australia’s first deployable Weapons Technical Intelligence (WTI) forensic laboratories.

The LAND 154 Phase 2 Weapons Technical Intelligence capability will improve Defence’s joint CIED response, providing the Australian Defence Force (ADF) with the ability to independently deploy a WTI capability which will provide in-depth and more deliberate exploitation conducted within a deployable, purpose-built processing facility. Providing greater depth and scope of exploitation and analysis will deliver timely, actionable operational intelligence and allow the ADF to rapidly respond to IED blast events and other threats to provide critical analysis of evidence.

Strengthening Australia’s security, the project will support a new sovereign capability – raised, trained, maintained and sustained in Australia, and create new technical jobs, develop local expertise and leverage partnerships with Australian owned subcontractors.

EPE’s WTI Project Director, Keith Mollison, said “The distinct skillsets of our military veteran team allows EPE to bring a unique combination of Weapons Technical Intelligence experts, Project Management expertise and specialist maintenance technicians to support this key capability, ensure its longevity, and boost Australia’s security and its interoperability with our allies.”

About EPE
In its 25th year of operation, EPE’s purpose is to enable and protect Australians and our allies operating in hazardous environments. EPE provides a range of Detection, Diagnostics, Mitigation, Neutralization, and Exploitation capabilities that support First Responders, Defence Forces, Law Enforcement, and other government agencies in the Asia Pacific region. Our personnel have extensive real world operational experience spanning Special Forces, Counter IED, Intelligence and Exploitation. We understand how the specialist equipment is employed and more importantly, the strategic, operational, and tactical demands encountered across the full spectrum of operational environments in which they may be deployed.

Media contacts:
For Australia and Asia Pacific contact Narelle Hoffman, Marketing and Communications Manager, EPE.
Phone: +61 (0)402 486 393 or email:
Find out more at: www.epequip.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter

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Greater protection for deployed forces

EPE_Land_154_Ph2_Labs_Prime_Contractor_NEWS

An Australian Army soldier prepares an explosive charge during an urban breaching serial at Townsville Field Training Area. Photo: Sergeant Brodie Cross


An Australian company will ensure ADF personnel working with explosive devices on operations have a safe laboratory capability to operate in.

Defence has signed a $30 million contract with Zangold Pty Ltd, trading as Explosive Protective Equipment (EPE), to support the ADF Weapons Technical Intelligence laboratories.

The deployable high-tech laboratories, which are constructed in a modern shipping container design, provide mobile protection for soldiers, sailors and aviators undertaking explosive hazardous material and forensic analysis in the field.

Zangold Pty Ltd will deliver essential services to keep the state-of-the-art laboratories operational at all times.

Assistant Secretary of Electromagnetic Warfare and Intelligence Systems Alex Rothwell said the laboratories provided a safe environment for soldiers, sailors and airmen working with explosive devices even when deployed.

“This level of support demonstrates a new level of collaboration between Defence and industry in supporting this advanced and complex capability,” Mr Rothwell said.

The support and maintenance to the laboratories will be based out of Brisbane and Adelaide and will create up to 15 full-time specialist technical positions for EPE. Support of the laboratories will also require engagement with a range of local businesses for maintenance and repair.

 

Originally published on the Australian Government Department of Defence News 

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Smiths Detection innovation allows for the mobile detection of explosives, narcotics, and super toxic chemicals.

Smiths Detection innovation_news

The launch of the LCD 4 – a body worn toxic chemical detector – alongside a first of its kind extension – XID – brings enhanced versatility to the detector, allowing it to identify traces of super toxic chemical agents, narcotics and explosives – including fentanyl and novichok. 

Smiths Detection, a global leader in threat detection and security screening technology, today announces the launch of its latest chemical agent identifier, Lightweight Chemical Detector (LCD) 4 alongside the LCD XID extension. This will expand the detection capabilities of the LCD to include street narcotics, explosives, pharmaceuticals, and other super toxic chemical threats.

The capability of LCD can be transformed by placing the detector into the XID cradle, where it immediately turns the vapour detection device into a ruggedised mobile trace detector that can be used in any CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive) scenario.

The XID has been developed as a direct response to the request from existing LCD customers to adapt the capabilities of the detector to the constantly evolving global threat environment which is driving the requirement to detect and identify minute quantities of super toxic threats such as fentanyl and novichok.

The LCD series is the most widely deployed personal chemical detector globally, over 100,000 detectors are in service with operators in 58 different countries. The largest operator is the US DOD through its Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) Program. The LCD and LCD XID have been evaluated in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons laboratories and provide the benchmark for personal protection against toxic chemical threats.

Smiths Detection’s Defence Market Director, Michael Lea, said: “The LCD 4 and the XID have been developed to respond to the changing threat environment. The XID gives CBRNe and HAZMAT operators the ability to detect and identify a far broader range of threats that they may encounter on everyday operations. The XID is a great illustration of Smiths Detection’s capability to develop products in response to customer needs and helping us to achieve our mission to make the world safer place.”

The LCD 4 & XID will be on display at the Security & Policing event in Farnborough, UK, 14-16 March (booth C87).

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Skydio Soars Into 2023 as it Meets Critical Infrastructure Need

Skydio getting rich_NEWS



Skydio
, the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight, today announced it has raised $230 million in funding following a year that saw its enterprise customer base exceed 1,200 organizations, just three years after entering the enterprise and public sector market.

Skydio drones are now used by every branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, by over half of all U.S. State Departments of Transportation, by over 200 public safety agencies in 47 states and across more than 60 energy utilities. Additionally, Skydio is used by enterprises in over a dozen other industries. These customers are automating complex inspection tasks and getting situational awareness in life and death situations. On the strength of its autonomy technology, Skydio is now the largest drone manufacturer in the United States.

The $230 million Series E round brings Skydio’s total funding raised to $562 million with a current valuation of over $2.2 billion. Linse Capital led the round, joined by existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Next47, IVP, DoCoMo, NVIDIA, the Walton Family Foundation and UP.Partners. Skydio also welcomed new investors Hercules Capital and Axon, a technology leader in global public safety and a key Skydio technology partner.

“Drones enable the core industries that our civilization runs on—transportation, public safety, energy, construction, communications, defense, and more—to operate more safely and more efficiently, by putting sensors wherever they’re needed, whenever they’re needed, while keeping people safely on the ground. The transition to autonomy delivers a step change in the accessibility and utility of drones by removing the need for an expert pilot,” said Adam Bry, co-founder and CEO of Skydio. “We are still in the early innings of the industry, but we are seeing extraordinary demand globally from organizations addressing needs important to every citizen.

Today’s funding and expansion news comes on the heels of the announcement of Skydio Dock and Skydio Dock Lite, powered by Skydio’s new Remote Ops software, which enable drones to be flown without an operator on site at all. Skydio also recently launched Regulatory Services which are beginning to break through the Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) barrier with approvals for customers to operate Skydio drones beyond line of sight, including fully remote operations. The combination of technology maturity and regulatory progress for fully autonomous operations marks an inflection point for the industry.

Skydio’s 30x growth over the past three years has led to recognition as the one of the fastest-growing North American companies in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ awards. The growth comes against the backdrop of a market that has historically been dominated by manually flown drones made by companies based in China that are beholden to China’s governmental policy. Escalating geo-political tensions have sharpened the need for secure, trustworthy drones to serve critical infrastructure, public safety, and defense customers.

Skydio tackles these challenges with world-leading autonomous flight technology, paired with manufacturing scale in the United States – something many didn’t think was possible in the drone industry just a few years ago. Over the last year, Skydio increased its overall headcount by 40%. Skydio also revealed its new U.S. manufacturing facilities in Hayward, CA, which total over 36,000 square feet, a 10x increase in capacity. To continue to meet demand and support its rapidly growing global customer base, Skydio expects to bring over 150 manufacturing jobs to its facility in Hayward, CA and other U.S. locations.

“Skydio drones are being used to save lives and aid in the maintenance of critical infrastructure in ways that sounded like science fiction just a few years ago,” offered Bastiaan Janmat, Managing Director, Linse Capital. “We couldn’t be more excited to continue our partnership with Skydio as they solidify their position as the world’s most innovative drone technology company.”

“Drones bring substantial value in maintaining public safety, in particular in terms of increasing visibility and providing a first line of communications for first responders. Skydio fills a critical need in making that value more readily accessible to key stakeholders such as law enforcement thanks to the power of autonomy,” said Henrik Kuhl, SVP, Strategy & Corporate Development at Axon. “We are excited to continue our go-to-market and technology partnership with Skydio as we work together to deepen adoption of this technology in public safety.”

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Video showcasing the extensive CBRN defence capability of Indonesia’s Mobile Brigade Corps (BRIMOB)

After supplying specialist equipment into the CBRN capability for Indonesia’s Mobile Brigade Corps (BRIMOB), EPE International is excited to share a shortened version of BRIMOB’s video, SATUAN KBR. The video showcases the extensive CBRN defence capability Indonesian operators now have to detect, protect and decontaminate when confronted with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats throughout the geographically dispersed cities and provinces of Indonesia.

The events of the Bali bombing and other terrorist acts have heightened the Indonesian government’s emphasis on preparedness for CBRNe threats. CBRN defence has been a growing competence for the past decade with the Indonesian National Police now having one of the largest and most competent CBRN capabilities around. BRIMOB Gegana is a highly trained special operations paramilitary and tactical unit of the Indonesian National Police tasked with specialist operations such as bomb disposal, CBRN handling, counter terrorism, and intelligence.

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Transfer of specialist expertise from global supply chain to perform comprehensive diagnostics, maintenance, depot level repair and software upgrades to vital defence equipment in Australia

Through_Life_Support_Training_EPE_News

With international travel restrictions behind us, our team of Through Life Support technicians is back travelling overseas to continue their ongoing training.  Training provided and accredited by our global network of OEMs at their facilities in the US, UK, Canada and Europe has enabled our technicians to become leading experts in their fields within the Australian and New Zealand Defence industries. This transfer of specialist expertise to perform comprehensive diagnostics, maintenance, depot level repair and software upgrades in Australia has enabled us to sustain equipment for the entire equipment life cycle. Optimising the performance and life cycle of vital specialist equipment including robots, X-ray, CBRN detectors and electronic counter measures (ECM) ensures our military and police operators have equipment they can rely on in demanding operations. Recent transfer of skills has included: QinetiQ North America TALON and SPUR EOD robots Redwave chemical, explosive, narcotic and gas detectors XplorIR, ThreatID and ProtectIR.

Thanks to Australian Defence Force and Australian Government‘s Skilling Australia’s Defence Industry (SADI) Program that supports the transfer of skills into the Australian defence sector to continue developing this sovereign capability to meet current and future Defence needs.

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Improving sovereign capability to maintain, repair and upgrade complex unmanned systems

EPE recently had the privilege of hosting Travis Rideout, Principal Engineer at HDT Global based in the US, and the brains behind the Hunter WOLF UGV. Travis spent the week transferring his expertise to some of EPE’s team of Robotics Technicians and Mechatronics Engineers to assist EPE in improving the sovereign capability to maintain, repair and upgrade complex unmanned systems here in Australia.

The Hunter WOLF is in use in the USA, Australia and in numerous allied forces to support and augment dismounted soldiers. Here in Australia, Australian Defence Force has used this capability as part of the Dismounted Combat Program’s experimentation with uncrewed systems. The Hunter WOLF acts as an exemplar dismounted support vehicle providing logistical support, power, autonomous and Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) control, utilizing numerous mission payloads to enable soldiers in the field. The experience gained through this experimentation is helping the ADF to understand how it can best utilise unmanned systems in a range of operational scenarios.

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EPE Handheld Standoff Raman Detector Demonstration features in AUSDEF Bulletin

 


EPE recently showcased this capability to Defence through a scenario-based demonstration highlighting the handheld capability of the detector and the increased stand-off ranges achieved through integration onto uncrewed platforms.

The increased use of robotics and autonomous capabilities will fundamentally change the way the Army fights, and this project achieves a number of the Army’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy goals : increasing situational awareness, reducing the soldier’s physical and cognitive workloads, facilitating movement and manoeuvre, increasing reach and range, and force protection, ultimately replacing soldiers in some of the most dangerous tasks.

 

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EPE announces the appointment of Adam Modd as Senior Solutions Architect

Adam served in the Armed Forces over a total period of 32 years retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He started with an extensive EOD career with the British Army, subsequently in 2007 he was requested to be part of a project to develop Domestic, Expeditionary, and Special Forces CBRNe, IEDD and EOD capabilities for the New Zealand Defence Force.

Adam Commanded E Squadron 1st New Zealand SAS Regt for over five years, during his 13 year career in the Defence Force he represented New Zealand on FVEY and NATO steering groups, technical working groups and International forums. Adam also deployed overseas supporting Interpol and on Special Forces operations to Afghanistan. Adam took a two year sabbatical in 2009 / 2010 to work in support of the United States Government on Special Forces programs.

In March 2020 Adam was seconded from the Defence Force to the New Zealand Ministry of Health to assist with the outbreak of COVID, during this time he deployed to the Pacific as the Mission Lead for the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team. This situation saw Adam retiring from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel, and consequently taking up the role as Director Emergency Management, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand charged with maintaining the capability and capacity to prevent, protect, mitigate, respond to and recover from natural, and unnatural threats and crises.

During the span of his military career, Adam undertook a range of roles including Leadership, Command, Operational, Scientific Research & Development, Capability Development, and Capability Delivery roles. Adam has experience on a wide range of operational deploymemts that include:  Humanitarian Aid & Disater Relief (HADR), De-mining, Biological Chemical Radiological Nuclear (BCMD), Trans-National Crime, Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Proliferation, and Intelligence.

Adam has served in many areas of conflict, danger and unrest, he has deployed on complex multi-national, multi-agency operations all over the world, as part of Special Forces, United Nations, OPCW, Interpol. FBI, FVEY & NATO Militaries and Military Intelligence roles. Adam’s operational tour experiences include: several multiple tours of Northern Ireland, multiple tours of Iraq, Hong Kong, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Columbia, Nepal, Cambodia, and numerous tours of Afghanistan.

Honours and Awards – Adam was awarded the George Medal (GM) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002 for his gallantry Bomb Disposal operations, and most recently he was recognised with the award of the Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD) on the 2021 Queens Birthday Honours. Adam was also recognised for his counter terrorist work globally with a U.S. Bronze Star, U.S. Army Commendation Medal (ACOM) and three FBI Commendations.

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Defence Innovation Hub Project delivered to provide a prototype of stand-off chemical and explosive detection.

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Photo 1 from left to right: Rob Edye and Robbie Wild from EPE
Photo 2 : EPE team with Defence Innovation Hub and Army and AFP representatives


With Defence focused on human-machine teaming to remove soldiers and operators from immediate threats, EPE was awarded a Phase 3 Defence Innovation Hub (DIH) Contract to advance the stand-off chemical and explosive detection capability for a maritime boarding party application delivered in the previous phase. The challenge for Phase 3 was to miniaturise the hand-held stand-off Raman (HSR) detection unit and integrate onto uncrewed platforms to increase stand-off to further remove the operator from the threat.

EPE recently showcased this capability to Defence through a scenario-based demonstration highlighting the handheld capability of the detector and the increased stand-off ranges achieved through integration onto uncrewed platforms. Through this, EPE’s team of engineers were able to perform positive identification of threats up to 100m away from operators. In addition, the demonstration highlighted the results that were achieved and verified through independent testing of the detector by Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG). This illustrated the range of threats contained within the HSR library and the distances at which the detector was achieving positive identifications.

EPE’s Innovation Manager, Robbie Wild said, “the miniaturisation of this capability, and the development of a modularised approach to integrating it onto uncrewed systems opens up a variety of possibilities for the deployment and operation of other sensors, which can all successfully contribute to removing humans from threat environments, which is our underlying goal”.

One Army participant at the demonstration commented “The potential from this project is only limited by our creativity”. EPE’s plans for the future of this Project include, increasing stand-off range and trace detection capabilities of the system; looking at using the technology within specific mission sets; and progressing autonomous delivery solutions. This reinforces the importance of Defence’s DIH and the integral role it is playing in the development of innovative Australian sovereign capability.

The increased use of robotics and autonomous capabilities will fundamentally change the way the Army fights, and this project achieves a number of the Army’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Strategy goals : increasing situational awareness, reducing the soldier’s physical and cognitive workloads, facilitating movement and manoeuvre, increasing reach and range, and force protection, ultimately replacing soldiers in some of the most dangerous tasks.

Feature photos : EPE Trusted to Protect

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Warwick Penrose, EPE Trusted to Protect as Finalist for Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year 2022

Warwick Penrose

Specialising in chemical bomb disposal during his time in the ADF, Warwick continued to utilise his unique skills in the civilian workforce.

When the company he worked for came up for sale, Warwick made the bold decision to acquire it, using his business acumen to pave the way for consistent growth of EPE. Since then he has grown EPE from 2 to 45 staff, now delivering and supporting protective capability worldwide.

EPE specialise in the provision of complete protective capability solutions for counter improvised explosive devices, explosive ordinance disposal, and electronic counter measure amongst others. They provide support to the Defence Forces and all Police jurisdictions in both Australia and New Zealand, and other government agencies including Attorney-General’s, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

He credits his core entrepreneurial skills to his defence service, including the importance of being adaptable.

Through his organisation, he has been able to employ veterans from a wide variety of ranks, and believes that his veteran employees bring to the company exceptional leadership skills, work ethic, culture and ethos, giving back to the veteran community where they can.

EPE was also recognised as a finalist for Veteran Employer of the Year – Medium category of the 2020 Prime Minister’s National Veterans’ Employment Awards.

Acknowledgement Department of Veterans’ Affairs media announcement: https://www.veteransemployment.gov.au/winners-finalists/warwick-penrose-epe-explosive-protective-equipment

 

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Advisory Board consisting of Defence & Defence industry leaders appointed by EPE Group of Companies

Over the last 12 years EPE has evolved from a small Australian SME Defence business, into a Group of Companies with separate businesses operating in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The diverse business ranges from delivering an award-winning prime vendor contract to the New Zealand Defence Force, through to lead commercialisation partner working with CSIRO and DSTG to deliver a revolutionary ‘Broad Spectrum Respiratory Canister’. EPE will translate this technology to design and advanced manufacture activities for the Australian and international markets. Underpinning EPE’s sustained growth is a focus on development and integration of new and emerging technologies that will help Defence become better protected, connected and enabled, to enhance operational outcomes.

Warwick Penrose, Managing Director of the EPE Group of Companies commented “Our purpose is to improve safety and reduce the risk of harm from Explosive, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and other ‘Improvised’ threats. Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), as well as other technologies that optimise human performance are all core parts of our roadmap. To optimise our operating, growth and investment plans across the EPE Group, our Executive Team has appointed a Board of Advisors to provide independent thought governance.”

The Advisory Board is chaired by Chris Otley-Doe and includes Adam Findlay (AO) and Andrew Garth.

Chris previously founded Rubikon which he grew to become a Defence prime vendor, and was Managing Director of Accenture Australia. Chris commented on his role “Relationships are built on trust, loyalty and strong ethical bonds. This is the epitome of EPE which I have known and admired for many years. They have strong bonds with their extensive global supply chain and more importantly the service personnel that are protected by the array of what EPE provides. I’m also attracted by the innovation in a technically challenging environment, with Warwick and his team to be fast adopters of new technology.”

Adam comes to EPE with 37 years of military command experience of both conventional and special forces. He brings an exceptional knowledge of the national security environment at the strategic level, as well as close links to a generation of military leaders across the region. His senior appointments include as the Commander of all coalition Special Forces in Iraq that culminated in the liberation of Mosul from ISIS in 2017; and from 2017 to 2020 as Special Operations Commander – Australia (SOCAUST). Adam is now a Professor of Practice in Defence and Regional Security. He is also the Director of the Griffith University Defence Network (GDNet) where he leads a team that links Griffith University’s leading researchers and educators with Defence, Defence Industry and other universities to enhance national security capabilities.

In discussing why he welcomed the opportunity to join the EPE advisory board, Adam commented, “As Special Operations Commander I first got to know EPE as a company that was respected for their support, attitude and quality of their equipment that enhanced operational capabilities and protected ADF lives across the CBRNE spectrum. My ongoing interest in EPE is to enhance their development of sovereign national security capabilities to better enable and protect the warfighter. My contribution to EPE will be through linking my deep knowledge of the threat environment and ‘user requirement’ combined with my detailed understanding of the world-leading foundational scientific research currently being conducted across Australian universities.”

Andrew brings diverse leadership experience from both Defence industry and Government. This includes being a key team member that developed the 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement and then establishing the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) which has now transitioned to ODIS.

Throughout Andrew’s time in Government and business, he has been extensively involved in guiding hundreds of SMEs through to success and growth in the Defence market. He has firsthand insight into the organisational factors that consistently lead to success, and he is excited to bring this experience to EPE.

Andrew commented “Defence industry makes a significant contribution to Defence capability and the protection of our service men and women. This is absolutely exemplified in the work that EPE undertakes. Critically as EPE grows it’s becoming a globally recognised Prime Systems Integrator, bringing together the best of world leading technologies while working with local industry and research organisations to create genuine sovereign industrial capabilities. This outcome is a key objective of industry policy and Defence need.”

EPE’s Advisory Board has intentionally been structured so EPE can further minimise risk and better meet the protection needs of Australia and our allies.

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The Gas Identification Gap

ThreatID identifiation gap_news

When responding to a Hazmat incident, knowing what you’re dealing with is key to keeping people safe and effectively dealing with the situation.  Once you identify a material, the hazards and properties of that material are readily at your fingertips.  For solids and liquids, there are many tools available for the identification of unknowns.  Led by the “white powder” scares of the early 2000s, FTIR and Raman instruments have been developed which can quickly and easily identify thousands of unknown solids and liquids.  Many Hazmat teams worldwide have successfully used this equipment, providing identification of unknowns and improving the safety of their community.

In contrast to solids and liquids, though, there has been a real gap in the ability of instruments to identify unknown gases for Hazmat response.  By their very nature, gases exist at lower concentrations, making identification more difficult.  Unfortunately, gases pose the greatest danger in emergency response.  They can be toxic at low concentrations, and they are uncontained.  To describe the danger in common terms, “They can come out and get you”.

The new ThreatID-GLS from Redwave Technology addresses this gap by providing identification of solids, liquids, and gases using FTIR spectroscopy.  Adding sensitive gas measurement to the well-known FTIR technology now allows responders to identify gases that pose the greatest danger to both the responders and the community with an already familiar technique.

Detection vs Identification

First responders have many tools to detect and quantify gases.  Combustion gas indications (CGI), photoionization detectors (PIDs), and chemical-specific sensors (such as a 4 or 6 gas meter), all indicate if certain gases are present and predict a concentration, but none of them actually identify the material.  The PID is a great example.  It is highly sensitive, and it can detect a wide variety of gases.  With the proper calibration, it can also accurately quantify many gases.  Teams love using the PID because they can see so many different materials.  This universal nature is both its advantage and its downfall.  If there is a gas present, most likely the PID will respond, telling you something is there.  Unfortunately, you still don’t know what is there.  What are the dangers? How much of it is a problem?  How do you remediate it?  The PID lets you find it but doesn’t tell you what it is.  Pairing the PID with the ThreatID-GLS gives the ability to quickly detect and locate the gas of interest (using the PID), as well as accurately identify the material (using the ThreatID-GLS).  Additionally, once the identification is made with the ThreatID-GLS, the correct calibration factor can be entered into the PID, allowing for accurate quantitative measurement.

Chemical-specific electrochemical sensors and flame ionization spectrometers are more specific than CGI or PID detectors, but their identification abilities are still limited.  Electrochemical sensors are targeted at specific compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide; however, they have cross-reactivity to other compounds as well.  A positive reading is indicative of the gas present, but not a real identification.  Flame spectroscopy detectors (FSD) are more specific than PIDs.  Commonly used handheld models respond to compounds containing arsenic, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus.  Similar to the electrochemical sensors, this allows classification but not identification.

Other instruments provide identification for specific threats; however, the ThreatID provides the largest coverage of commonly found gases at relevant concentrations.  Ion mobility spectroscopy (IMS) and high-pressure mass spectrometry (HPMS) both provide sensitive detection of specific, targeted threats.  Both are important tools for the detection and identification of CWAs and dangerous narcotics. 

For general use, though, they present some issues.  First, the number of materials identifiable by these systems is quite low.  IMS is very sensitive, but it’s targeted at CWA and a few select toxic industrial chemicals (TICs); they provide identification or classification of approximately 50 compounds.  HPMS is more versatile, covering CWA, TICs, and many narcotics.  Each of these can be detected with great sensitivity, but the number of compounds identified is on the order of several hundred.  By comparison, the ThreatID-GLS has 5,600 compounds in the library covering a wide range of TICs and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  This allows simple identification of many substances found on typical hazardous materials calls.

Sensitivity vs Usability

An instrument with high sensitivity can accurately identify even a small amount of material.  Obviously, high sensitivity is advantageous when dealing with hazardous materials.  Making an identification at a low concentration helps to keep both responders and the public safe.  Sensitivity can have a downside as well because the system can be easily contaminated with too many samples.  The ThreatID-GLS can identify most compounds at concentrations in the part per million (ppm) range.  Additionally, with partial filling of the gas cell, it can identify compounds over 3 orders of magnitude.  As an example, ammonia can be accurately identified at concentrations ranging from 25 ppm to over 0.5%.   This gives the ability to identify and address both small and large problems.  The preview screen alerts the user when a sufficient sample is in the cell for identification.  If an excess sample is added to the cell, it can typically be pumped clean in a matter of minutes; there is no need to conduct an extensive cleaning, or “bake-out”, procedure.

Small Molecules

Absorbances measured by infrared spectroscopy are based on covalent chemical bonds present in the sample and consequently are unaffected by the molecular weight of a sample.  There is no limit, either high or low, to the sample molecular mass which can be measured by infrared.  Mass spectrometers, on the other hand, have a molecular weight range for which they are effective.  In particular, the minimum molecular weight measurable by most portable mass spectrometers is approximately 50 atomic mass units.

Many hazardous gases which have low molecular weights are identifiable by the ThreatID-GLS, but not by commercially available mass spectrometers.  Examples include ammonia (17 AMU), diborane (27 AMU), formaldehyde (30 AMU), hydrogen cyanide (27 AMU), and carbon monoxide (28 AMU), and phosphine (36 AMU).  All of these gases are listed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as hazardous industrial gases and are identifiable by the ThreatID-GLS.

Simple Use, Important Results

The ThreatID-GLS allows for easy chemical identification, whether they are solids, liquids, or gases.  By extending well accepted infrared spectroscopy identification to gases, the ThreatID-GLS allows responders to increase safety and improve response to chemical gases and vapors which represent one of the larger dangers that they deal with.  Overall, the system can identify over 5,500 gases, and over 22,000 solids and liquids, providing the broadest range of chemical identification available.

Source: RedWave Technology

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Skydio Engagement and Responsible Use Principles

Skydio Engagement and Responsible Use Principles

Our mission is to make the world more productive, creative, and safe with autonomous flight.

We consider the holistic impact our products have on communities and countries. Our focus is on advancing our mission to make the world more productive, creative, and safe. We are shaped by core values of accountability, transparency, and the protection of privacy and civil liberties. Informed by these values, we seek positive impact. This also requires us to proactively understand and mitigate potential misuse.

We use our role as a leader in autonomous flight technology to promote the responsible development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Our leadership role offers the opportunity — and the obligation — to shape AI in a way that reflects our values.

We proactively promote best practices on the responsible use of our products with our customers. Our sales processes, training materials, services, and support methodologies will emphasize responsible use, while also anticipating and countering misuse.

We engage in policy and regulatory efforts to support laws, policies, and standards aligned with our values. While we are committed to using our products and customer engagements to make a difference, we believe that companies cannot and should not act alone. We partner with governments, civil society organizations, and industry associations to advance laws and policies that promote responsible use.

We engage in a responsible way with public sector customers in the United States and other free societies. In general, we believe serving government customers in free societies advances our mission of contributing to the public good. We all have a stake in the consequential and challenging questions associated with national security and public safety. With respect to those agencies and others, we adopt an approach of responsible engagement. We believe that our country, and the world, will be worse if leading technology companies refuse to participate. We will use our position to promote the responsible use of our products consistent with our mission.

We will not sell our products to repressive regimes. If our products fall into the wrong hands and are being used for harm, we will take appropriate measures to mitigate potential misuse.

We will not put weapons on our drones and will oppose fully autonomous lethal weapons systems. Our development process is focused on providing full automation, but we believe lethal weapons should not be fully automated.

We seek to create connections between our employees and the customers we serve beyond simply providing products and services. Shared understanding of the challenges, successes, and failures (even when painful) is critical to advancing our mission.

We seek to provide flexibility and freedom for people to choose what they work on. As a small company we need to work as a unified team. However, we will seek to accommodate employee preferences to work on the projects that are the most motivating and important for them.

Source: Skydio

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Wide open spaces support drone development


How do you know if a “drone” – an uncrewed aircraft, surface vessel or submersible – actually works? And how do you develop a set of laws that ensure the safety of both the people around them and the drones themselves? These are now persistent challenges that the Queensland government has set out to address.

Queensland has significant industry and research strengths in robotic and autonomous systems and the state government has identified this as a key growth sector.

Two of the keys to safe growth in this sector, however, are finding space to test the technology along with creating a regulatory framework that ensures safety and a harmonious coexistence. This is where Queensland’s wide open spaces, on land and at sea, come in.

The existing portfolio of ships’ Collision Avoidance regulations, or COLREGS, needed to be rethought to accommodate Uncrewed Surface and Undersea Vessels (USVs and UUVs).

The Brisbane-based Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre, or TAS DCRC, found itself leading the world in doing this, according to its CEO, Glen Schafer.

The TAS DCRC, established with support from both the Department of Defence’s Next Generation Technologies Fund and the Queensland government, is designed to help develop next-generation autonomous and robotic technologies and generally enhance the competitiveness of the sector.

Developing new COLREGS and a regulatory environment for autonomous and robotic vessels is a vital step towards bringing them into widespread service and forms part of the TAS DCRC’s Assurance of Autonomy activity, sponsored by the Queensland government. The TAS DCRC’s Robotic & Autonomous Systems Gateway is designed to help Australian researchers and companies navigate the regulatory framework with greater certainty and efficiency, Schafer told The Australian.

The TAS DCRC released the Australian Code of Practice for building and operating autonomous and remotely operated vessels in May, along with the COLREGS Operator Guidance Framework, a world first.

These were showcased and put to the test by nine USVs at the international Maritime Showcase which preceded the TAS DCRC’s Autonomous Vessel Forum last month on the Great Barrier Reef.

This was the first significant commercial demonstration of multiple autonomous vessels in Australia, says Schafer, and highlighted both the rapid growth in technology and the need for a renewed regulatory environment.

The Queensland government has also partnered with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) whose new ReefWorks tropical marine test range, opened in January this year, hosted the Maritime Showcase.

ReefWorks is based near Townsville, close to the Great Barrier Reef.

It is the world’s only marine tropical test facility in the world and so enables testing of marine technologies, uncrewed systems and new sensors in a tropical marine environment.

ReefWorks actually consists of three separate ranges covering several thousand square kilometres: a coastal range adjacent to its Townsville headquarters at Cape Cleveland; one on the Reef itself; and a third on the outer Reef and the deep water at the edge of Australia’s continental shelf.

Also in May, ReefWorks hosted two Remotely Operated Vessels (ROV) participating in the RAN’s EX Autonomous Warrior – these were controlled from the Autonomous Warrior command centre 1800km away in Jervis Bay.

EX Autonomous Warrior is the RAN’s main program for trialling potential robotic and autonomous systems, both on the surface and underwater, along with artificial intelligence capabilities.

Queensland’s long-term investment in autonomous systems research is designed to support the development and testing of new uncrewed systems across all three domains.

The TAS DCRC and ReefWorks exist alongside the Queensland Flight Test Range at Cloncurry and the MILTECS land equipment test facility in South East Queensland, all supported by the Queensland government.

Collectively, they are designed to facilitate the regulatory reforms necessary to ensure Australia and the rest of the world adopt autonomous and robotic systems safely and position Queensland as a power in a global, emerging market.

Acknowledgement: The Australian :https://www-theaustralian-com-au.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.theaustralian.com.au/special-reports/wide-open-spaces-support-drone-development/news-story/49215b9879f948e939a8bdc93e1a38e6?amp

 

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Australian Army veteran, Warwick Penrose finalist for Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year in the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards

Veteran award finialist announcement


Australian Veteran Entrepreneur Warwick Penrose has been acknowledged for his entrepreneurial spirit, passion and commitment to business in Australia. Warwick is honoured to be named as a Finalist for 2022’s Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year for leading the EPE Group of Companies.

Established under the Prime Minister’s National Veterans’ Employment Program, the Awards recognise national contribution in veteran employment. The inaugural Veteran ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award recognises outstanding achievement by a veteran creating opportunity for Australia through entrepreneurship.

EPE has grown from humble beginnings in a ‘home office’ with 2 staff around Warwick’s pool table and sub $2.5 million annual revenues. Today as a medium sized Australian defence industry partner with offices in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, employing a team of 45-50 people with revenue of $40m, EPE’s Group of Companies delivers capabilities worldwide.

EPE’s purpose is to enable and protect Australia and its allies to safely operate in harmful environments. EPE’s predominantly veteran workforce brings a unique skillset in Counter-IED and Counter-Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Improvised Threats, gained from supporting operations across Australia’s Five Eyes and NATO partners.  Warwick elaborated on this “EPE applies our domain knowledge to assist our clients to achieve their missions. I was very fortunate with my own Defence experience, having a number of postings with the sole focus to establish new capabilities, very rapidly.”

The company’s growth has enabled a focus on innovation and developing emerging technologies that will help defence become better protected, connected and enabled.  Warwick continued “We’ve partnered with Australia’s national research agency, CSIRO and have invested to build EPE’s MILTECS Test & Evaluation facilities. MILTECS supports several defence Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities (SICP’s) and has successfully expanded Australia’s test and evaluation eco-system. These facilities are now being used by defence, defence industry and our research partners to accelerate the delivery of new technologies into the hands of Australian troops and our allied partners.”

“As an individual I’m honoured to be a veteran of the Australian Army, but acknowledgement as a finalist in this award also belongs to my team of veterans and our entire team,” he said.

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BAE Systems Australia and EPE announce autonomous capability partnership

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Announcing the partnership at Land Forces 2022 in Brisbane, the two organisations will collaborate on the development of autonomous technologies through BAE Systems’ Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) program, which began this year.
Focused on implementing BAE Systems’ advanced vehicle management systems on to UGVs, the collaboration with EPE aims to develop soldier support systems for the Australian Army.

As Australian agents to the HDT Hunter WOLF (Wheeled Offload Logistics Follower) UGV platform, EPE was initially contracted to provide platform, integration and engineering support as well as test facilities, using the company’s state-of-the-art UGV test and evaluation facilities in south-east Queensland.

Operating within a multi-domain autonomy architecture, the program focuses on the integration of UGV mission systems to enable prototyping that will develop certifiable mission systems.

BAE Systems Australia, Managing Director for Defence Delivery, Andrew Gresham said:

“We are pleased to partner with EPE to help develop and grow sovereign autonomous capability here in Australia.”

“It’s critical for businesses like ours to collaborate with Australian industry so we can successfully support the ADF and, working with companies such as EPE provides opportunities to work as one team, creating an environment that fosters innovation.”

“Having access to the EPE’s unmanned ground vehicle platform and magnificent test facilities here in South-East Queensland has helped us make significant advances in ground autonomy technology, and we look forward to furthering this work together.”

BAE Systems Australia is an industry partner and the Land Domain Lead to government agency Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre. Commercialisation of this technology will be accelerated through these collaborations.

EPE’s Director Innovation and Commercialisation Ben Sorensen said:

“It’s been an extremely positive experience working with BAE Systems on a shared pursuit of a multi-domain, collaborative and autonomous robotics for Defence at our MILTECS test and assurance facility.
“Our technical teams are working collaboratively, both virtually and face-to-face, to advance the technology, enhance capability and significantly de-risk future Defence programs.”

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Queensland leading the way in autonomous defence systems

Queensland leading the way in autonomous defence systems

Already delivering leading national defence capability, Queensland is setting itself up as a world leader in autonomous defence systems’ innovation and development.


As the political environment shifts across the globe, it brings with it new security challenges. Advances in technology are enabling innovation.  Australia’s Defence requirements must also adapt.

While robotics and the development of autonomous defence systems are rapidly advancing, Defence specialist EPE is looking to do much more than simply keep up with the rest of the world.

EPE’s Director Innovation and Commercialisation, Ben Sorensen, explains that with partners such as CSIRO, the company is working at the forefront of technology to deliver new capabilities for customers.

“We’re fortunate, because Queensland has grown some world-leading technology capabilities,” Sorensen said.

“Autonomous systems technologies developed right here in Brisbane have been recognised by the US Department of Defense and Defence Primes as some of the best in the world.”

With the help of a Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority grant of $1.4 million, the Australian company has delivered a Military Training, Evaluation, Certification and Systems Assurance facility, better known as MILTECS, in South East Queensland.

MILTECS is a specialised unmanned systems training and testing facility just west of Brisbane built to help Defence, Emergency Services, industry and researchers test and build capabilities to counter Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and explosive threats in a representative environment.

“It’s really about assurance at the end of the day. That what you are developing is fit-for-purpose, that it’s going to be safe and it’s the sort of thing that we can also adopt and employ as novel capabilities to enable warfighters and emergency responders.

“Our customers and our partners are all focused on cutting-edge technology and working in environments which are extremely challenging. I certainly think that our technology and our partnerships are really pushing that edge out further.

“Our innovation work is focused on enabling and protecting people in dangerous environments. We’ve been doing work integrating sensors, and autonomy capabilities with tracked, wheeled, legged and flying robotic platforms.”

Andros Fx with EPE UDM with Titan and PAN and AUSCAM at Helidon 19

EPE’s MILTECS Manager, Dean Beaumont, says the MILTECS sites located in Queensland’s south east corner, at CSIRO’s Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies at Pullenvale and Helidon are supporting the development of human-machine teaming.

“We’ve really seen a dramatic increase in the practical testing and validation of UGVs and UAVs over the past 6 months, compared to recent years,” Beaumont said.

“Current world events are probably supporting this growth in interest and innovation, as is the need for commercial organisations to explore new ways to use robotics to enable people and keep them safe in potentially dangerous environments.”

Beaumont says the location of MILTECS is a factor in its current and future success.

“With Defence, we have bases at Amberley and Enoggera that geographically suit our location. Brisbane based Emergency Services and commercial primes are also located in close proximity to the MILTECS sites, ensuring easy access to the purpose built facilities.

“There hasn’t been a lot of red tape to set our facilities up in accordance with Queensland and Commonwealth Government requirements and legislation. We have been able to achieve all of our planned outcomes.”

Sorensen agrees.

“The south east corner of Queensland is the centre of gravity for robotics and autonomy in the country.

“There’s a critical mass of Research and Industry working together, and that seems to have created some good conditions for growth in this area.”

He says that the importance of State Government strategic policy as an enabler to allow industries to support growth shouldn’t be downplayed.

“We know support for Defence and Defence Industry is central to the Queensland Government policy, and that supports us to do our work.”

This alignment with the Defence Industries 10-year Roadmap and Action Plan reinforces the value of the strategic vision of the Queensland Government to support the growth of the defence industry.

EPE isn’t alone in autonomous defence development in Queensland.

Cloncurry, in the state’s west, is home to the Queensland Flight Test Range – Australia’s first commercial testing facility for uncrewed aerial systems. This facility enables industry to undertake testing and evaluation of new platforms and payloads, a critical requirement to Australia achieving sovereign capability.

Queensland is also home to the $50 million Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre, which is driving the development of game-changing drone and robotics technology for the Australian Defence Force, and enabling greater insights into the assurance processes necessary to ensure the safe application of new such technologies.

Additionally, the Queensland Government in partnership with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is funding the extension of a unique marine technology testing infrastructure and capability to support autonomous maritime (surface and underwater) systems at different levels of technology readiness. In May this year, the tropical marine test range, known as Reefworks, hosted elements of Navy’s Autonomous Warrior exercise, with Australian designed and built uncrewed vessels controlled from Navy’s Autonomous Warrior command centre in Jervis Bay.

The State Government also attracted Boeing Defence Australia to headquarter in Queensland along with its subsidiary Insitu Pacific.

In 2022, Insitu Pacific was selected to deliver 24 ‘Integrator’ tactical uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) under Land 129 phase 3 to the Australian Army, estimated to be worth approximately $307 million. The platforms are set to be manufactured from the company’s facility in Brisbane, with delivery expected in 2023 and 2024.

EPE also partnered with Insitu Pacific, Urban Circus and Downer to make up the all-Queensland Muskito Team which delivered to the Defence Innovation Hub a technology demonstrator for unmanned CIED route clearance and route proving, through detection, discrimination, location and reporting to provide timely, accurate tactical decision-making.

The State’s proximity to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and its long history of military presence, makes it ideally placed to work with Defence industries to promote security and stability in the region and strengthen sovereign capabilities.

“Government has recognised that the capabilities that we’re developing at EPE and at MILTECS are sovereign capabilities” Sorensen said.

“We’re working to develop human and autonomous systems capability and capacity, and commercial opportunities to supply the ADF and export markets.”

EPE’s MILTECS builds on Queensland’s track record in delivering the most advanced, large-scale military manufacturing projects including vehicles and munitions, as well as research capability, skills, facilities and supply chains ready for service.

Acknowledgement Defence Connect: https://www.defenceconnect.com.au/key-enablers/10580-queensland-leading-the-way-in-autonomous-defence-systems